Ch 4, part 5
"Dark Skies over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II retelling
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy II and all FFII characters featured within. Original characters and interpretations are owned by the co-writers of this fan fiction. There is no profit being made from this story.
Exhausted, starving, nervous… all of these words suited Gordon the more he sat inside Kashuon Keep on his own. There he sat, his spear across his lap, huddled in the corner of the hallway right next to the first door he originally came in. The torch he held burned so low that he couldn't see the mythril tip of his spear, or even the top of his boots. The cries of the ghosts around him made him feel much smaller than he ever was. He felt so small and shriveled up, not knowing what to do or where to go anymore.
How many days had he been trapped here? He lost count. Gordon wondered what was going on in the world outside. He hoped with all of his heart that Princess Hilda's Wild Rose Rebellion still stood in opposition of the Palamecian Empire, or he was going to die in that exact spot. He wondered about everyone who was fighting, and how they were doing, when he noticed the wall was starting to open.
"Well, that was anticlimactic," a familiar voice said on the other side.
"No kidding," a familiar female voice said.
The door swung open, and light poured in from the outside. Gordon rushed to bring himself to his feet, clutching his spear with both hands. He was ready to fight, wasn't he? He could rush out the door after killing whoever it was, right? Right? Probably not.
"Your… Your Highness?"
Gordon squinted in the darkness. He lifted up the torch to see that Minwu was right there, staring him straight in the face. "Lord Minwu!" he shrieked. "You… you made it in? I thought I was the only one who could-"
"We went to go get the Goddess Bell."
Gordon looked to see that Clarisse and Firion were standing there with Minwu, and he let out a sigh of relief. "You've saved me," he breathed out. "Take me home. I can't stay in this damned castle any longer!"
"Prince Gordon," Clarisse said gently. "So the reason no one could find you is because you've been here the entire time? Why did you go without us?!" She hugged around the prince, even though she knew she wasn't supposed to. "Everyone was worried for you. Especially Princess Hilda! I thought for sure we'd lost you to this war, too."
"You're not going to lose me to the war," Gordon said, returning her gesture of affection. "You're more likely going to lose me to this place. When you left me in Poft, I did find Cid and his crew. After talking everything over, I realized that to do my part in this, I needed to get the Sunfire. I'm the last heir of Kashuon, so it is my duty. But I came here without preparing myself at all, and after finding out about the ghosts inside, I've not been able to move any further than this spot right here… I want to fight! I want to help! I'm tired of being useless, but I can barely move. I'm tired, hungry, and my spirit is spent…"
Minwu was glad his intuition was right. Gordon looked starved. He reached into his robes and pulled out the loaf of bread he'd been carrying with him since he last visited Fynn with Cid. "Prince Gordon, here. Eat this for now, and when we get home, we'll give you a real meal," he said. "You won't be able to make it through this without something in you."
Gordon gasped, reaching for the bread. When Clarisse pulled away, he ate it all as fast as he possibly could. He figured at this point, he'd even eat onions to relieve that emptiness. Then he bowed to Minwu. "Thank you," he said. "You really have saved my life."
"And now, it's your turn," Minwu said. "Come, Prince Gordon. We need the Egil's Torch. There are more lives which must be saved." He put a hand on Gordon's shoulder. "You grew up in this castle, yes? That means you can guide us."
"I would," Gordon said, "But I think it's changed since the Empire attacked. The ghosts of the fallen Kashuon citizens are here, bound to this place. I hear them, moaning in pain… being forbidden to pass into the afterlife, because of their unsolved vengeance."
Firion looked around. "Ghosts?" he asked. He didn't hear anything at all like what Gordon described.
"Oh yes," Gordon answered, pointing ahead, "The ghosts of the slaughtered."
Minwu blew the torch out and tossed it on the floor. The light was too dim to use anyway. He tapped the end of his staff on the floor and used the gem at the top to light the hall instead. "We go," he said, heading in the direction away from the door. "The Kashuon Keep is several floors high. Keep your wits about you."
Clarisse looked at Gordon. "You're a brave man," she said, "To know your duty and take it upon yourself to go through with it. But, you want to know something? Keeping it all to yourself was really stupid, and what would we do without you? If you die, Kashuon is no more."
"Perhaps it would be better that way?" Gordon asked.
"NO!" Clarisse shouted at him, catching the attention of both Minwu and Firion. "Every life… every life has meaning! If you throw your life away, then you're no better than that damned Emperor."
"Clarisse…" Firion said, trying to calm her down. "Come on, now that's enough."
"No, Firion," she said, pushing him away. "If you throw your life away, Gordon… you're telling him that he was right all along. It's the same as bowing to him. You are a part of a rebellion, the only rebellion left! We need you… like we needed Josef…" She sniffled loudly. "So get on your feet and move forward! You are a prince, the younger brother of… of the bravest Prince to ever walk these halls. You have his blood in you! Act like it!"
Gordon took in a deep breath. "All right," he said, even though he was shaking in his boots, and he was sure he all ready pissed himself a few times while sitting there in the darkness. "I will press onward, milady. Thank you for… pulling me out of that fit of despair. I will always remember your harsh kindness."
"That's not easily forgotten," Firion muttered quietly, only to get a thwack from Minwu's staff to the very tip of his head. "Well, it's true, Minwu."
Gordon chuckled a little. "We shall proceed," he said, following Minwu's lead. "I will face… the trials. If I don't succeed-"
"You will," Clarisse and Firion said immediately while having the deadpan expression, cutting Gordon off.
"Fair enough," Gordon said with a sigh.
Candice and Paul hadn't moved since they sat down originally, and boy, it wasn't just boring and painful. It was so noisy from all the sounds of reconstruction going on that if they wanted to sleep, they couldn't. It was dark in the hallway that led to the jail. They both could hear a symphony of stomach gurgles between them. Candice couldn't remember the last time she ate. Paul couldn't remember the last time he took a quiet shit in peace. And neither of them could remember the last time they actually slept.
Then, the light in the hall flickered on.
Neither Candice or Paul bothered looking up to see who it was.
"Rise. The Empress of Palamecia comes to greet you, prisoners," a guard said from the hallway.
"Do… what?" Candice asked, her voice rough and hoarse. "The… Empress?" She didn't even know there was one, so this confused her quite a bit.
Cantirena walked into the hallway and faced the prison bars. "I thought you might be a little hungry, so I brought this," she said, holding out one of the baskets that was always left to her every time she woke up. "They give me too much, even for someone who eats for two."
"Cantirena?" Paul asked, turning around to look at her. He crawled over to the cell doors, enchanted by the smell of the food. "So you are doing this as just a ruse! I knew it!"
"What are you talking about?" Cantirena asked, passing an apple through the bars. "I am the Emperor's wife. There is no… ruse of any kind." She looked very puzzled by this. "I just came to share some of the food given to me because I don't know how long His Grace is going to keep you in here."
"Does he know you're here?" Candice asked, also coming to the cell door. Paul handed her the apple and she instantly bit into it. She wasn't particularly fond of red apples, but she didn't care – it tasted like heaven. "The Emperor, I mean."
"To be perfectly honest, I don't know where he is," Cantirena answered, giving them a loaf of bread. "Here. I can't eat everything they give me, so I figured I'd share it." Then she just put the whole basket through. "If I can, I'll bring you a basket a day."
Paul shook his head in disbelief as he ripped the loaf in half and passed one half to Candice. "If this isn't a ruse, then I don't know why you're helping us. We're… you know, we're rebels."
"Someone I knew, or dreamed of perhaps… I don't know where he came from… well, anyway, this person taught me that taking care of others is simply the right thing to do. To give when we have extra, for example," Cantirena explained it so simply, but both of the prisoners were completely confused by that. "So as long as the Emperor doesn't mind, then I'll keep doing it."
She's talking about Minwu, Paul thought. He kept eating and eating, though he knew if he overate while like this, he was going to put himself in an even worse state than if he was just hungry. But it sounds like her memories are… muddled or something.
"It is nice of you to share," Candice said. "Though I have no idea what we're going to do when we need to take a dump."
"There's not any toilets down here?" Cantirena asked. "Well that's unpleasant."
"We're prisoners," Candice said, half-laughing. "We're not at a health spa. I don't think we're supposed to feel pleasant." She took a very good look at Cantirena. For a moment, she felt like she could have been looking into a mirror. This woman seemed very familiar, even though there was no chance they could have met at any point.
"I don't think His Grace would like it if I were to let you out," Cantirena said quietly. "So here's what we'll do. When you finish your food from the basket, just use that. I'll… I'll dispose of it for you, if I can."
"One question," Candice said. "Why aren't you in charge of Palamecia? You sound like you'd be a much better ruler than… well, you know…"
"That is not my place," Cantirena said. "I am a servant to His Grace."
"I certainly don't think he'd find this in his service," Paul grunted. "He's not a merciful guy by any stretch of the imagination, milady. Listen, I don't want you to do anything that would end up getting you into trouble. If you can't help us, don't. We'll be just fine."
"You heard the man," Candice said, giving Cantirena a thumbs up. "Besides, what self-respecting rebel wants to take help from someone who serves the Emperor? We're enemies. You shouldn't be keeping your enemies healthy."
Cantirena shook her head. "You're refusing my help?"
Paul and Candice looked at each other. They really didn't know what to say to that. Of course they were hungry and wanted to be taken care of, but at the same time… something about this whole arrangement didn't feel right.
"I know!" Cantirena said, clapping her hands. "I will ask His Grace on your behalf! You can join our side, and then we can be friends." She stood up and waved at them as she left. "Try to keep your spirits up. Not all is lost." She left the hall and the guards flipped off the light.
"I… have no idea what just happened here," Candice said, looking at the basket of food. "Honestly… that was just weird."
"She's still the same gentle girl," Paul said. "But the way she spoke about Minwu makes it sound like her memories are mixed up. I know the person who taught her to be good to everyone, even enemies… that just has to be Minwu. The Emperor must have used some sort of dark magic on her."
"So… answer me this, then. Why would the Emperor of Palamecia marry a village girl who just happened to be the student of the royal mage?" Candice asked. "There's no political gain from that."
"Maybe the Emperor actually loves Cantirena, but he doesn't know how to express it. From what it sounds like, he dotes on her," Paul thought aloud. "Giving her baskets of food every time she wakes up?"
"She did mention she was eating for two," Candice mentioned.
"…oh shit." Paul breathed it out, dropping the piece of cheese he'd been eating. "She's pregnant. That… that is…"
"They had to consummate the marriage at some point, right?"
"…the day Minwu finds out about this… I don't even want to be on the same continent…"